HANDBALL is probably one of the most contentious decisions referees have to make.

Since 1878 it has only been deliberate handball that has been penalised.

In this season’s rewrite of the Law, it describes in more detail what constitutes a deliberate handball, much of it to be honest is how referees have interpreted it for years.

On top of this, the Law also now penalises accidental handball under certain conditions.

The Law has always said deliberate handball was the movement of the hand towards the ball rather than the ball hitting the hand.

This remains in the Law.

What is added is when the player stretches out his arms and hands, to make a bigger barrier for the ball to pass.

This may be for instance to jump up with arms above the head or stretching the arms out sideways in such a way it could block any pass or shot.

None of this is really new but it’s the first time it’s been written into the Laws.

Accidental handball can also now be penalised under certain conditions. One of these is if the ball goes direct into the goal accidentally off an attacker’s hand or arm.

Another is if the ball hits an attacker’s hand or arm bringing it under control and he/she can score or create a goalscoring opportunity.

Remember Ellen White’s disallowed goal in the Women’s World Cup semi-final.

If a player uses his hand and arms to make himself unnaturally large, he will be penalised even if they are hit from close range.

If, however, the players keep hands and arms close to their body, accidental handball will not be penalised.

In this situation for example when players flinch and protect their face with their hands it is not an offence.

It’s also not an offence if a player heads the ball, on to his own hand or arm, except in the situations above where an attacker gains an advantage.

So, a defender for example. would not be penalised.

No doubt handball will remain as contentious as ever.